About seven years ago near the end of April, the librarian in charge of selecting for the 800s handed me a writing book and said, “You write, right? I’m not sure about this one—could you take a look and see if it’s legit?”
One look at the cover, and I understood her misgivings.
A whole novel? In 30 days? Without a plot?
But I’m not one to judge a book by its cover,* so I took it home and read it. Then I bought my own copy, recommended that my co-worker buy two more for our branches, and e-mailed our assistant director about a potential programming bonanza, come November.
It turns out that Chris Baty isn’t a scam artist or delusional—he’s the founder of National Novel Writing Month and his book is full of tricks, tips, and strategies to help you meet the Nanowrimo challenge.
For those of you who haven’t heard of any of this,** Nanowrimo is an annual event in which people all over the world pledge to write a 50,000 word ‘novel’ in one month.
Pens or pixels up the first second of November first, pens or pixels down the last second of November 30th.
There aren’t many rules. You can prep, or not. You can set a strict regimen of 1,667 words a day, or not. You can join a local group for support, or go it alone. You can use any medium to write, you can write about anything, and most importantly, you never have to show your work to anybody.
Seven late Aprils ago, I’d never finished a long piece of fiction—sure 50,000 words was more of a novella, but it was longer than anything I’d managed to write without losing interesting or momentum. Nanowrimo sounded like a good deal, but I wanted to get started now.
And I remember looking at the calendar and thinking, “Wait. May has thirty-one days.”
Two days later, I was off and writing. Thirty-one days after that, I was exhausted, but victorious.
My imagination hurt, my eyes hurt, and my kidneys wanted to have a quiet word about my caffeine consumption, but I’d finished a long piece of fiction.
It wasn’t a good long piece of fiction^ but that wasn’t the point. Or maybe it was—I’d powered past my inner editor like a marathoner breaking through a wall, which meant it could be done.
And what’s more, I’d found the time, despite a two-year old, a husband, three cats, and a full-time job, none of which seemed like the (loving, essential, first-prioritied, ahem) obstacles they had before I’d tried.
So . . .
I’m going to try it again this year, without that extra day’s grace and two of the cats and with a second kid, a MIL, a Watson . . . and a blog.
I’m not going in completely blind this time—I’ve been following Alex Sokoloff’s suggestions for Nano prep, just to see if they make a difference^^ and I have a pretty good idea of the general plot.^^^
But starting Thursday, my posts aren’t going to be as long (I can hear you cheering, you know) and might not be as frequent (stop it).
If anyone would like to support me in my endeavors by offering a guest post, or by sharing a favorite poem or two—original stuff would be awesome—on a Wednesday, please e-mail me.° Soon.
Anyone else want to throw caution to the winds and join me?
*I’ll judge covers plenty all by themselves, though, especially over at SMTB, because holy cow.
**You probably have, but humor me—I need a blog post, here.
***Did I get that right? I think I did.
^Not even after several drafts, though I recently brought the last incarnation out of the drawer to take another look, because you never forget your first, even when you should . . .
^^They’re going to make a difference to my next book, I can tell you that.
^^^Or plots, because it’s tempting to try to jump-start my next book but it might be fun to run with something completely different. I do know that the working title will be Pirate Ninja Nuns from Mars because why not?
° The poetry posts can be anonymous and/or commentary-free, if you like. If you want to share someone else’s poem, it has to be in the public domain or we’ll need permission to post the whole thing—but we can always share a few lines and link to it if it isn’t and we don’t, so just send ‘em!